CINCINNATI, Ohio - Junior righty Jeff Thompson pitched seven shutout innings while junior designated hitter Jeff Gardner was 2-for-3 with three RBI as the No. 9 Louisville baseball team earned a 4-1 win over Cincinnati in the inaugural Reds Collegiate Invitational on Saturday at Great American Ball Park.
With Saturday’s series-clinching win, the Cardinals improved to 24-6 overall and 6-2 in BIG EAST Conference games while the home-standing Bearcats dropped to 11-17 on the season and 1-7 in league action. Louisville will be looking for its second straight conference sweep when the two teams conclude the weekend series on Sunday at 1 p.m., ET at Marge Schott Stadium on the UC campus.
Thompson (Greenville, Ind./Floyd Central HS) struck out nine while scattering seven hits in his fourth outing of at least seven innings to earn the win and improve to 6-0 on the season. It marked the sixth time in eight starts this season he has not allowed a run. Through 53.0 innings, Thompson has allowed only three earned runs (0.51 ERA) to go with 55 strikeouts and just 15 walks.
Gardner (Louisville, Ky./Whitefield Academy) finished with his third two-hit performance in his last four games while matching a season-high with three runs knocked in. He was one of three Cardinals with two hits on the day as junior outfielder Cole Sturgeon (Owensboro, Ky./Owensboro Catholic HS) was 2-for-2 with a walk, an RBI and two runs scored and junior catcher Shane Crain (Lexington, Ky./Wabash Valley CC) was 2-for-4 overall.
Following a scoreless first inning, the Cardinals broke through for the first run of the game when Gardner connected for a one-out RBI double to right center to plate Sturgeon for the 1-0 lead. Sturgeon started the scoring chance with his five-pitch walk from Cincinnati righty starter Mitch Patishall.
With pitching in control for the middle innings on Saturday, Louisville added to its lead with a decisive three-run sixth inning. The scoring chance started with both Ratajczak and junior outfielder Coco Johnson (Benton Harbor, Mich./Central Arizona) being hit by pitches from Patishall. Sturgeon followed with an RBI single to left field to plate Ratajczak for the 2-0 lead. After a wild pitch allowed Johnson and Sturgeon to advance to third and second respectively, Gardner followed with a two-run single up the middle to push the lead to 4-0.
The Bearcats broke through for a single run in the ninth when Matt Williams scored from third on a groundball double-play off the bat of Forrest Perron against Louisville lefty Kyle McGrath (Louisville, Ky./Eastern Kentucky). Entering for Thompson, McGrath allowed one run on two hits in two innings of relief.
For Cincinnati, Patishall was charged with all four Louisville runs on seven hits with one strikeout and one walk in 5.1 innings to take the loss and drop to 0-4 on the season.
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Postgame Louisville Notes
- Saturday’s game was the first ever collegiate game at Great American Ball Park and the contest was preceded by the Washington Nationals’ 7-6 win over the Cincinnati Reds in 11 innings.
- With Saturday’s win, Louisville holds a 93-80 lead in the all-time series with Cincinnati, which dates back to 1924. The Cardinals have won six straight and 17 of the last 21 in the series.
- In Cincinnati, the Cardinals hold a 47-34 advantage against the Bearcats.
- The nine strikeouts for Thompson are the second most for him this season trailing only his career-best 12-strikeout performance against USF on Feb. 16.
- The seven hits for Cincinnati are the most allowed by Thompson this season.
- With the Bearcats plating just one earned run on Saturday, Louisville has allowed two or less earned runs in 19 of 30 games this season, including both games this weekend.
- The three-RBI performance for Jeff Gardner was his fifth multi-RBI game of the season, which is tied with Adam Engel and Sutton Whiting for second on the team.
- With his third inning single, Ty Young has hit safely in seven straight games. Overall, he leads the Cardinals in hitting at .365 and RBI with 31.
- Louisville improved to 21-2 this season when scoring first.
- The Cardinals moved to 17-3 against righty starters in 2013.
- Following Saturday’s game, the Louisville baseball team watched the final moments of the men’s basketball team’s Final Four win over Wichita State on the bus. Though the bus arrived at the hotel with five minutes left in the game, the entire team, coaching staff and support staff remained on the bus as the Cardinals advanced to Monday’s NCAA title game.